"Last Will and Testament" Bible Study on John 12:20-33
March 18, 2021, 3:00 PM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passages from John 12:20-33 (Common English Bible).

20 Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One to be glorified. 24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.

27 “Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

29 The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.”

30 Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours. 31 Now is the time for judgment of this world. Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out. 32 When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (33 He said this to show how he was going to die.)

Jesus is giving his final address to his followers, his last will and testament.  Greeks arrive where Jesus and his disciples are gathered, find Philip, and make an extraordinary request: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  Philip, the disciple with the Greek name, a person whom Jesus had befriended at the start of his earthly ministry (see John 1:43), is the disciple who leads the Greeks toward Jesus.  They want to see Jesus, reminding us that from the beginning Philip  has been inviting people to "come and see" (John 1:39).  Jesus responds to their request.  If you desire to see Jesus, then listen to what he says, and view Jesus through the lens that he gives.

This verse "We wish to see Jesus" has been carved on a number of historic pulpits.  In a way, it is a theology of preaching.  This verse is certainly indicative of the Fourth Gospel.  In John's Gospel, everyone is trying to see Jesus, the Word made flesh, the bodily presence of God among us.  We want to see Jesus, see him as Jesus really is rather than as we imagine him to be.

In response, Jesus says to the Greeks and his followers that his hour has come.  Jesus' "hour," his time of "glorification" indicates his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.  Jesus' response indicates what his "hour" means.

From the beginning of his ministry in John's Gospel, Jesus has been performing many miraculous "signs," everything from turning water into wine to healing the blind.  Now we are "seeing" the final sign in John's Gospel.  The climactic "hour" is now upon us.  This sign shall overshadow the rest of the Gospel in the chapters that follow.

Jesus puts forth a metaphor in John 12:24, that of bearing fruit.  This theme of fruit, vine and branches will receive more attention in John 15.  John 12:25 extends the agricultural metaphor of verse 24.  After Jesus' death, Jesus' disciples will bear much fruit when Jesus is gone.  Even greater works than those of Jesus (John 14:12) will be done by the disciples when Jesus returns to the Father.  This begins the Farewell Discourse which stresses the qualities of discipleship throughout  If we want to be with Jesus (John 13:16), we are to follow Jesus, doing his works, feeding, and tending Jesus' sheep (John 13:36-37; John 21:15-19) giving testimony to Jesus (John 15:27).

John 12:27 shows the distinctiveness of John's presentation of Jesus.  John's Jesus does not ask for the cup to pass from his lips (John 18:11).  Jesus majestically, willingly lays down his life.  John 12:28-30 hints at the revelation of Jesus in his baptism and his Transfiguration in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36).  There's no Transfiguration in the Fourth Gospel and no words from heaven at the baptism of Jesus.  Perhaps that's because in the Gospel of John, we do not need a voice to tell us who Jesus really is (John 12:30).  Jesus knows who he is (John 1:1).  The voice from heaven simply testifies that in Jesus, God's name has been glorified (John 12:28-30).

Judgment is a theme at this point in the Farewell Discourse, especially John 12:31-33.  Now "the world" that has so often resisted Jesus will hear Jesus' words.  To listen to Jesus is to believe in Jesus.  The world had better listen.  Things are coming to a cataclysmic, decisive moment.  The "ruler of this world" will be cast out.  That will be displayed in the next chapter, as disciple Judas slips over into the company of Jesus' betrayers (John 13:27-30).  When that happens, this will confirm what Jesus has said is true.

John 12:32-33 seem to be hinting, looking forward to the crucifixion.  The phrase "what sort of death he was about to die" makes one wonder if "the sort of death" that Jesus must endure will be the dance that leads towards his resurrection and ascension.  Being "lifted up from the earth to draw all people" to himself is an evocative image encapsulating  crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

We have been living much of this year in the Gospel of Mark.  Mark has sometimes been called an "extended passion narrative," in which Jesus is clearly presented as the Crucified One.  However, in John's Gospel, Jesus is the Sovereign, Divine Christ from the very beginning of John's Gospel.  Therefore, this Farewell Discourse, Jesus' Last Will and Testament, are  words not just in anticipation of his death but in anticipation of his exaltation.  Jesus is attempting to teach and encourage his disciples, not only for the challenges of crucifixion, but also the challenges presented to them by his reign, his exaltation and ascension.  In Jesus' crucifixion, he will be taken away from them by the actions of violent people.  In Jesus' ascension, he will be taken away from them in order to begin his sovereignty over all.

As the Gospel that the lectionary thrust upon us on this last Sunday of Lent, we are able to look forward to Jesus' crucifixion and also to begin our theological interpretation of the meaning of the cross.  The cross is not only a sign of the violent human reaction to Jesus; it also has sweeping theological ramifications.  Somehow, in the mysterious working out of God's love for us, the cross stands, not simply as a sign of horrible injustice and violence, but also as a sign of our redemption and God's victory over sin and death.

Indeed, John 12:20-33 contains Jesus' Last Will and Testament.  We all know what a Last Will is.  But do we fully understand what the word "testament" means, biblically speaking?  Testament can mean witness, covenant, or promise.  Jesus promises us and all people, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”  Jesus' Last Will, his deepest desire for us, is that we bear the fruit of self-giving love to others.

I wonder when each of our Last Wills are read, what will people remember of our witness for Jesus?

Jesus is Lord!

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Greg Rupright



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03-20-2021 at 8:26 PM
Par May
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